I have kind of come to the realisation that working around three children in different schools, and around a sick mother is virtually impossible, unless I give them all up to childcare and a local nursing home. For the time being, anyway.
SO, as a result, we have reviewed our budget. One of the first things that I have control to change and economise on is the groceries. Canny cooking. Frugal food.
I love to cook, and I am a fairly good cook, thankfully. I have aprons! My mother did a brilliant job at imparting all of her knowledge. (She was classically trained Cordon Bleu cook who spent a lot of time cooking around Europe in the early 1960's. I am very appreciative of the techniques I learned at her side as a small child, almost by osmosis. I dare say I take these skills for granted.)
My studies at uni were in Hotel & Catering Management. Then I worked in the catering industry for what felt like a million years.
So I am a foodie, of sorts.
I am less gastronomy driven now that I on this journey to diminish myself. In as much as I use less butter, cheese and cream.
But of course, I use a lot more fresh fruit and vegetables, and a lot more lean meat and fish.
So I have become a very canny shopper, for all the above reasons.
I am not working, so I do have time to shop around and use a variety of different food shops.
I'll be honest, I get a real kick out of sourcing really good cheap fresh produce. And then producing really good fresh food for the fab five.
I delight in finding butchers and fishmongers that can source the exact cuts of meat and range of fish that I want. Organic preferably.
So I shop, for the week, at several different shops:
I have a small and very untrendy fruit shop that I go to on a Monday when he sells so much seasonal produce off in bulk very cheaply. Last week I scored rock melons at 2 for $1, and fresh rhubarb for $1.99 a kilo.
I buy my bread in bulk from a local bakery at 99c a loaf and freeze 8 loaves a week.
I buy meat from a local butcher, and also scour Coles for end of day markdowns......often 50% off. (Supermarket meat is not great, but their full joints of meat, when Weber'd, are as good as organic.)
I buy milk, and eggs by the dozens, and cheese and small good meats at my local deli, where the turnover is very high. I get all the meat and cheese sliced exactly as I want it, at a cheaper price than the packaged stuff.
I buy fresh coffee beans, grains and pulses from a local Continental deli, whose turnover is also high, and their prices are low.
And fish from either the supermarket when it is on very special, or mostly from a local fishmonger. (They have only a small amount of fresh catch, but it really is fresh, and gorgeous.)
So at least 7 different shops. Certainly NOT as convenient as charging round the supermarket getting everything in one place.
I have established relationships with the shop owners, so I feel able to ask for specific items, and I know I am always getting their best produce. They take care of me.
And so when I came across the brilliant $120 Food Challenge, created by Sandra, I was thrilled. Her challenge is to feed a family well, for $120 a fortnight. Her approach to food, her need to shop economically, her concept of eating WELL on a very small budget appeals to me enormously. $120 – Fourteen Meals – No Pressure
Her beautiful blog is the first place I go to when menu planning for the week. That says it all really, doesn't it?
The recipes are clear, simple, and the blog is easy to navigate. The photography is good. The meals are family friendly, with a wonderful variety of treats. The ingredients are seasonal. The dishes are all economical, are Sandra utilises "best buys" based on her local supermarkets pricing. (And whilst Sandra is in NSW and I am in SA, the Coles pricing is very similar, and certainly I have noticed that my local butcher (who is cheap and good) : his pricing trends are similar.)
So, for my canny cooking, my best tips to myself are these:
~ Menu plan consistently.
~ Build a great pantry of basics.
~ Shop around for specials. Really shop around.
~ Get to know your local smaller shops.
~ Balance out cost and time
~ Insist that cheap food must also be great food.
Tell me, if you need to economise, what is your first step?